I was pleased to see some action in both of my beehives this past Sunday. It was a beautiful, sunny day with temps around the freezing mark. Some bees were zipping out of the hives to relieve themselves (they will not defecate in the hive!) They don't stay out long, because they can become too chilled to fly.
Inside the hive, the bees form a tight cluster around the queen, and the workers take turns being on the colder edges of the cluster. The bees like to keep the centre of the cluster (where Queenie is) at a toasty 35C or thereabouts. It's amazing how much heat they can generate in there!
Here's a good post on wintering honeybees, on the Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey blog. The blogger also recommends a great book called The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark L. Winston. I found it fascinating, but if it's too technical for you, check out The Queen Must Die and Other Affairs of Bees and Men by William Longgood.
I hope my girls make it through the winter!
PS: Sophie is eating dead bees in the snow. It is normal to have some bees dies over the winter. They either crawl out of the hive to expire, or their corpses are tossed out, then they blow around on the snow a bit, which was why Sophie was behind the hives eating them. I've heard bees taste somewhat sweet owing to minute amounts of nectar or honey in their tummies.